How Madrid Could Become Europe’s Mega Hub For South America


Air Europa’s sale to International Airlines Group (IAG) could immensely shake up services at Madrid Barajas International Airport. With an existing stronghold on operations to South America, the Spanish capital could become a major hub for the continent.

Iberia Aircraft
With IAG already owning Iberia, the acquisition of Air Europa further tightens its grip on South America. Photo: Iberia

New opportunities

IAG’s Spanish arm Iberia already provides an expansive service to the region from its home in Madrid. Aeronautics Online reports that Iberia serves 300 weekly flights to Latin America, with the majority of these to the southern continent. Subsequently, IAG CEO Willie Walsh states that further leadership in South Atlantic operations is a primary factor in the acquisition of Air Europa.

Therefore, IAG holds further dominance in the South American market as that they will operate both Iberia’s and Air Europa’s services to the area from Madrid. The airport serves operations to 18 South American destinations, across 10 different countries. Airports in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazel, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Perú, Uruguay and Venezuela are all served.


Long-distance relationship

For many South Americans, Madrid is the easiest place to reach when traveling to Europe. There are not nearly as many cost-effective options to other European cities as there are as Madrid for travelers from these countries. Therefore, South Americans often fly to Madrid before hopping on regional flights to cities such as London and Paris.

IAG, Air Europa, Purchase
Air Europa is the third largest Spanish airline after Iberia and Vueling. Photo: Boeing

The long history between Spain and South America has led to a well-connected situation today. At face value, the common language makes it easy for citizens of both regions to conduct business across the Atlantic.

Furthermore, there is an extra incentive for many South Americans to travel to Madrid when it comes to working. According to Expatica, citizens from ‘Spanish-American’ countries that live in Spain only need to wait two years before they can apply for citizenship. Therefore, with an ever-expanding network between the two lands, many South Americans may be keen to travel to Madrid.


Many South American countries such as Bolivia, Chile, and Venezuela are going through political uncertainty at the moment. These issues are making it hard for residents to maintain a quality standard of living these days. The Guardian reports that due to the United States’ hardline approach on immigration, many Latin Americans are choosing Europe as the place to turn to.

Venezuelan Protests
The tough political climate in many South American cities is causing mass migration. Photo: The Photographer via Wikimedia Commons

Important region

However, it is not just passengers from South America that are making use of the connectivity. There are a lot of Spanish citizens turning to South America for opportunities. Ultimately, Argentina holds the highest amount of Spanish citizens outside of Spain, with over 400,000 nationals. The lengthy but direct flight between Madrid and Buenos Aires makes the migration much simpler than other cross-continental options.

On the other hand, other European cities are slowly emerging as key players in the market. Avianca’s South American operations to and from London Heathrow are proving to be useful. The Colombian carrier offers regular flights directly to Bogota, where passengers can also switch easily to neighboring countries. Additionally, routes from Frankfurt are also being adopted as Lufthansa offers reasonable non-stop flights to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.


Nonetheless, it is clear that Madrid is an important hub for South American operations and it is proving to hold even greater power. It will be interesting to see what IAG does with the new opportunities that are presented to them. Meanwhile, other carriers are keen to grab a slice of the pie.

What are your thoughts on the future of Madrid’s relationship with South America? Let us know what you think in the comment section.